Saint Leo’s Florida locations came together for the first time to celebrate commencement on April 27 during two ceremonies at the Florida State Fairgrounds. The university hosted nine commencement ceremonies beginning with the Key West Education Center’s on April 19. Additional ceremonies were held in Virginia, Texas, California, and South Carolina, and in Atlanta and Savannah, GA.
The university welcomes all of our new members of the alumni association!
This commencement was a special one for three sisters. Brianna Murphy (center) graduated at the morning Florida ceremony, joining her sisters and fellow alumna Kaitlin Murphy ’17 (left) and Courtney Murphy ’13.
Note from the Alumni Association President
With my term ending in a few months, I find myself reflecting upon all that our alumni association board of directors has accomplished this year, and the good work that still needs to continue.
As your board, our mission of fostering a mutually beneficial relationship between Saint Leo University and alumni is at the forefront of all we do. I’m pleased to share with you a few highlights of how we “defined success” this past year.
I hope our board’s leadership efforts inspire you to stay connected and engage with one another, to give back to our alma mater in meaningful ways, and to share your Saint Leo spirit by volunteering in the communities where you live and work.
Ann Marie Lombardi, Class of ’77
President, Saint Leo Alumni Association
Alumni Association Updates
Living Globally, Giving Locally
The Benedictine spirit of community continues to guide the work of Saint Leo alumni across the world. Many are supporting their local communities through philanthropic efforts. Here are some highlights of recent efforts:
The alumni board recently made a financial contribution to Make a Difference Inc., an organization that provides necessities for people in need throughout Pasco County. Made on behalf of all alumni, this gift will help support the local community surrounding University Campus.
During homecoming, Greek Life members—past and present—came together and assembled 20,000 meals for Feeding Children Everywhere. This organization provides healthy meals to children in need around the world.
The Tampa Alumni Chapter collected new toys at its annual Christmas party to donate to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program.
The Virginia Southside Alumni Chapter collaborated with the Chesapeake Education Center for a day of service at the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore.
Saint Leo WorldWide Alumni Outreach
The board of directors recognizes that alumni who have graduated from Saint Leo’s online program or an education center may not have as many opportunities as University Campus graduates to connect with fellow alumni. That is why we will soon launch a program specifically designed to help WorldWide alumni connect, including a virtual alumni chapter for professional networking, mentoring, and socializing.
Celebrating the Class of 2019
As you read this, the Class of 2019 is preparing to experience a major milestone by graduating from Saint Leo University. The board of directors will be with them to welcome them to our alumni association. We plan to share special communications about the importance of staying connected and being an active alumnus, engage in celebrations along with them, and be there to greet them and their families during commencement ceremonies.
Recognizing Alumni Achievements
During homecoming 2018, several alumni were honored for exemplifying the university’s core values and demonstrating a commitment to strengthen their alumni community. The weekend began with the 2018 Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, followed by the presentation of the Distinguished Alumni and Benedictine Spirit awards at the Brunch with the President. The 2018 Roaring Onward Alumni were honored at the brunch.
Nominations for 2019 are now being accepted. To learn more about these programs or to nominate deserving alumni you know, please visit your.saintleo.edu/alumniawards.
2018 Benedictine Spirit Award Valerie Crane ’62 graduated from Holy Name Academy and then attended Loyola University School of Dentistry, in New Orleans, for dental hygiene. After 25 years as a dental hygienist, she is now retired and lives in Alabama with her husband, John. Crane received a scholarship to Holy Name Academy as an incoming high school sophomore. She says the Benedictine Sisters encouraged her to take leadership roles that she would have never attempted at a large high school. She felt fortunate “to have had a nurturing environment and excellent education.” Crane enjoys lake living and spending time with John, their four children, and nine grandchildren.
2018 Distinguished Alumni Award Dr. Brandon M. Brooks ’11 graduated with a biology degree and is a third-year podiatry resident at the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta, GA. To date, he has completed more than 1,000 foot and ankle surgeries during his residency and was appointed chief resident for the 2018-2019 residency year. As a doctor in the Department of Veterans Affairs, Brooks is proud to wear a Saint Leo lanyard around the clinic and operating room. He says he feels “blessed to be a Saint Leo alumnus,” citing that everything he learned set the foundation for his entire career. Brooks and his wife Amanda are proud parents to Levi and are expecting their second child in April 2019.
Exciting things are happening at Saint Leo University. Here’s a top-five list of recent developments you may be interested to know:
At the start of the new academic year, Saint Leo University re-imagined its three major academic units, and each is now a college rather than a school: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and Social Services, and the Donald R. Tapia College of Business. This subtle, but strategic move was made to reflect the plurality of subject areas taught within each of Saint Leo’s academic divisions, as well as the current prominence of graduate degree programs among the mix. It also positions the university for future growth. Additional colleges will be added in the coming years to reflect Saint Leo’s focus on academic excellence in teaching and learning and to make explicit particular groupings of programs and new program areas.
In May, the new Doctor of Education: School Leadership and Doctor of Criminal Justice (specializations offered in homeland security and education) degree programs were approved by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The programs quickly met enrollment goals for their first classes.
During the summer, Saint Leo University Athletics announced it will add acrobatics and tumbling to its intercollegiate athletics program in 2020. Acrobatics and tumbling, a discipline of USA Gymnastics, is the evolution of different forms of gymnastics and involves tumbling, tosses, and acrobatic lifts and pyramids. Teams participate in head-to-head competition and are scored in six events.
The Saint Leo University College of Education and Social Services recently launched the Educator Preparation Institute, a program that provides an alternate route to teacher certification for mid-career professionals and college graduates who were not education majors. After passing the general knowledge and one subject area competence exam and securing a letter of eligibility from the state, individuals can enroll in the program to prepare to take the Florida Teacher Certification Exam. The Educator Preparation Institute program is available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. For more information, visit saintleo.edu/educator-preparation-institute.
Political science major Jeanine Ramirez ’20 and social work major/American politics minor MacKenzie Jones ’19, spent two months this summer in Washington, DC, in a selective internship program. It is called the Congressional Fellows Program and admits only 35 undergraduates for the eight-week summer program. The fellows work three days a week in the offices of members of Congress. Time is also spent each week on community service and leadership development. This fellowship placement is a first among Saint Leo students.
Saint Leo feels like family because I can truly relate the traditions and values of the university to my own upbringing and family morals. At home, we respect and support one another with a ‘we are all in this together’ attitude. When I was a student and now as an active alumna, I have that same feeling—a spirit of unity, every time I step onto campus, visit with alumni, or meet with staff. And I know I always will.” — Ann Marie Lombardi ’77
“Saint Leo feels like family because of its genuinely good-natured people. Nowhere else can you go and find such a warm-hearted and welcoming community; that is a direct reflection of Saint Leo’s core values being instilled into its students, faculty, and staff. As a student and now as an alumnus, Saint Leo continues to be that amicable family I can always confide in and reach out to for help.” — Luckson Abraham ’16
“Saint Leo feels like a family because the university always welcomes us home where lifelong friendships were formed and bonded, incredible memories deeply entrenched, and lives transformed and forever impacted by the opportunities that we were afforded. Simply put, I am who I am today, both personally and professionally, because of Saint Leo
University.” — Greg Greiwe ’80
“Saint Leo feels like family because we enjoy a laugh, a tear, and loads of work. I was taken aback at a regional spotlight event on campus as it was all about India. Home didn’t feel far away. I may struggle to complete my syllabus, but there is always help around. Saint Leo gave me a beautiful opportunity to be a member of the alumni board, as a student representative. I enjoy our meetings especially when we meet my ‘Gang of Lion Kings.’ It was wonderful to watch Saint Leo from the outside; but being involved from inside is even more rewarding.” — Akshita Sahgal ’19
“Saint Leo feels like family because we all share a common set of core values and experiences. All our lives have changed and have been impacted by our experiences and education at Saint Leo and whenever I am with other alumni, I always feel like we are ‘in it together.’ We share our experiences and core values in our interactions with the world.” — Laura Chirichigno ’10, ’12
Whether you are among our newest alumni or have not been active within the alumni association, here are some details to know:
The alumni association is led by the board of directors, which holds open nominations every January. Eight to 10 positions open each July as current members’ terms expire.
Homecoming weekend is held the first weekend in November at University Campus and is a great opportunity to reconnect with former classmates or to expand your network.
A variety of alumni events are held throughout the country, including happy hours, professional networking, community service projects, and outings to local sporting events. Bring a friend or come on your own. Either way, you will be glad you came.
Regional alumni chapters provide a great opportunity to get involved with Saint Leo right in your own backyard. Don’t see your city listed? Contact the Alumni Engagement office to find out how to start a chapter.
Note from the from the Alumni Association President
A special welcome to the Class of 2018! You are now a valued member of our Saint Leo University Alumni Association family.
We encourage all 93,000 alumni around the globe to actively support our many activities and programs; stay connected with the latest news and happenings on our website and social media channels; join your fellow alumni during networking and chapter events; and give back your time, talents, and treasures in support of our university. Visit your alumni website—your.saintleo.edu—to learn more.
I also would like to recognize and thank this year’s Saint Leo University Alumni Association Board of Directors for their dedication to our mission. Together, we are working to foster a mutually beneficial relationship between Saint Leo University and alumni. We hope our leadership actions, volunteerism, and giving inspires all alumni to engage and support our alma mater.
Saint Leo Launches a New Online Career Platform
Saint Leo Career Services is excited to announce the launch of Handshake, the go-to career services platform for Saint Leo alumni and students. The new online site offers several resources for alumni and students who are looking for career guidance, seeking a new job, or looking to find that perfect new employee.
Schedule an appointment with one of our career advisors (phone, video conference, or in person)
Easily search for jobs using an upgraded tool
Read different career profiles
As a prospective employer, you can:
Share job postings
Announce internship opportunities
Connect with students and alumni as a mentor
Alumni Chapters are Growing
We are excited to welcome the Virginia Peninsula Alumni Chapter and the Virginia Southside Alumni Chapter to the pride! If you are in the Tidewater, VA, or Tampa Bay, FL, area, be sure to check out the alumni chapter events for great opportunities to network, participate in service projects, and have fun. Chapters will also be forming in Ocala, FL; Savannah, GA; and Jacksonville, FL, this fall.
Feeding people and feeding young minds is Megan Hotchkiss’ life. After Hurricane Irma swept through Florida on September 10, Hotchkiss did what her family does: She fed people.
Hotchkiss—who will graduate from Saint Leo University’s Madison Education Center in 2019 with a degree in elementary education—her fiancé, and her toddler daughter evacuated their new mobile home in Hamilton County, FL, before Irma struck. “When it was all clear, we went to the house and I saw the damage,” Hotchkiss said. A large oak fell on her home and destroyed one side. “I said, ‘I can’t deal with it now.’ I had to get the restaurant open. We had food. My loss had to be pushed to the back of my mind.”
The Saint Leo junior recently had opened Crossroads Contract Food Services, a café on the North Florida Community College campus. Her parents own Crossroads Market & Grill in Jasper, FL. “We went to the restaurant, got the generators going, and set up a buffet line so the community would have a place to convene and get hot food,” Hotchkiss said.
At 5 p.m., she received a call from Henry Land, emergency management director for Hamilton County. All of the county’s emergency personnel had to stay at the headquarters. He told Hotchkiss they needed to feed 150 people breakfast, lunch, and dinner. “I told him, ‘I’ll figure it out,’ and we made spaghetti,” Hotchkiss said with a laugh. A police escort led Hotchkiss to emergency management headquarters to serve the meals.
Then at 10 p.m., Land had another request. “He said, ‘I’ve got 300 electric workers coming and staying at the elementary school,’ ” Hotchkiss recalled. “ ‘Is there any way you can handle them?’ ”
Hotchkiss readily agreed. “I didn’t talk to my parents or anything,” she said. “I just said ‘yes.’ I was still in a state of shock.”
She told them not to be mad, but they would be feeding breakfast to the first 300 people at 4 a.m. She headed to the restaurant at 2 a.m., and was ready to serve the first group. Meals were served around the clock to electric workers who had traveled from throughout the country to restore power, as well as to emergency personnel.
For nearly a week, Hotchkiss and her family fed those who had left their own families to help.
“We survived on one or two hours of sleep a night,” she said. “I tried to go home, but the power was still out.”
The fallen tree damaged the electric box and left a gaping hole in the roof and water damage to the bathroom. “I was so crushed and so beaten,” Hotchkiss said. “There are very few times you feel that kind of despair. You let it consume you for an hour. I only gave myself a little time. I had to get the restaurant in Madison restocked because the campus was reopening.”
As she prepared for returning to classes, she was able to reach her Saint Leo instructors. “I told them my house is gone, Internet [connection] is just a dream,” she said. “I’ve never been one to ask for handouts. I’ve never asked for extra time for assignments. But Elisabeth [Ballew, education instructor] and Christy [Roebuck, Madison Education Center director] were there for me. I caught up in two weeks. I can only imagine if I’d chosen another school. Saint Leo was there for me. I walked into Christy’s office and just cried.”
Before entering Saint Leo, Hotchkiss already had earned an associate degree, but said she made the bad decision to wait to pursue a higher degree. Her sister, Edie Hotchkiss ’13, graduated from Saint Leo and encouraged her to enroll. She learned about Saint Leo’s education program, and its field placement program. “The internships really helped me to choose Saint Leo,” she said. “I wouldn’t have seen the inside of a classroom [as a student-teacher] until my senior year. The way Saint Leo structures curriculum is so student-friendly.”
The young entrepreneur always knew she wanted to be a teacher. “I’ve trained horses, I’ve been in early education, I’ve opened businesses, but truly, education is where my heart is,” she said.
As part of her Introduction to Education class, she joined a mentoring program. “I gained rapport with these kids who were in horrible situations,” Hotchkiss said. “I was able to reach five, and they graduated. I mentored 15 students in two years.”
Whether it’s feeding the community and those who help the community or teaching and mentoring youngsters, Hotchkiss embraces Saint Leo’s core values. “Every value we have in the university is essential to being a good human being,” she said.
President Bill Lennox has remained busy in the last several months by supporting the university’s wide-ranging efforts and representing Saint Leo to the broader community.
The Fall 2017 semester had barely begun when he joined other university leadership in monitoring the tracks of and resulting damages from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. As Hurricane Irma approached Central Florida, he was among the nearly hundred staff members who remained at University Campus and ensured the safety of more than 600 students who sheltered in university buildings.
In September, Dr. Lennox was on hand at the ribbon cutting for the new ROTC space in Saint Francis Hall at University Campus.
On October 24, he delivered the keynote address to veterans at the Pasco County (FL) Board of County Commissioners Veterans Recognition Ceremony.
On November 9, Dr. Lennox welcomed veterans and active-duty military to the Military Recognition Event held at University Campus. In addition to employment opportunities, the event provided information about assistance with housing, education, stress relief, and more.
Ushering in the holiday season, he hosted the 1889 Society Christmas party on December 13. This festive event serves as a thank-you to the university’s dedicated donors.
In January, Dr. Lennox was accompanied by political science Instructor Frank Orlando, and two University Campus seniors, Cassidy Whitaker and Mark Saunders, on a visit to the Florida Legislature. Whitaker and Saunders are Saint Leo University’s representatives in the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida Presidential Fellows program. The purpose of the visit was to ask members of the legislature to continue to fund the Florida Resident Access Grant (FRAG), which helps offset the cost of attendance at private colleges and universities in Florida. Whitaker and Saunders are both recipients of FRAG.
Header Photo: (Pictured left to right) Frank Orlando, Cassidy Whitaker, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, Mark Saunders, and Dr. Lennox
In July, your Alumni Engagement & Sustained Giving team hit the road with the return of the Coming Home to You Tour. With stops in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Hampton, VA, alumni and students had a chance to network and have fun.
The tour will return this spring—so be on the lookout for the stop closest to you, and join in the fun!
Welcome Class of 2017
With commencement season behind us, it is time to welcome our newest graduates into the next phase of their Saint Leo experience. Be sure to keep your contact information up-to-date and visit your.saintleo.edu often to learn about all of the exciting things taking place.
Whether you are just graduating or simply haven’t had time to get involved yet, be sure to:
Saint Leo has made its mark in New York City and Tampa—what cities will be next? Alumni chapters provide a great opportunity for Saint Leo alumni to come together to network, help spread the word to potential new students, complete community service projects, and have fun—all in their own backyards. To find out how to start an alumni chapter in your area, visit your.saintleo.edu/chapters.
Calling All Animal Lovers!
Do you have a unique, special, or just plain wonderful pet? Please send us your photos (high-resolution, print quality if possible) for possible inclusion in an upcoming issue of Spirit magazine. Dogs, cats, pigs, horses, iguanas, parakeets, and more—all are welcome! Be sure to supply: your name and class year, the pet’s name and breed, and what makes your pet great. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: Saint Leo Pets
This Is My Saint Leo!
In May, members of the Class of 1962 (above) celebrated their 55th reunion. The weekend included a reception on campus, providing an opportunity to revisit familiar places as well as tour new ones.
Fred Edwards ’47 shared the images (below) with classmate Mickey McLinden ’47. The left photo was taken the day the pair “borrowed” the Benedictine brothers’ truck and took it to Dade City, something they got docked for weeks by Father Raphael for doing. The other photo was taken 60 years later in front of the same model truck. “Those were the days!”